Mackenzie Acuña-Taylor couldn't stop thinking about the essay contest at her school that would send the winners to hear former first lady Michelle Obama speak.
To the 16-year-old sophomore at Young Women's Leadership Academy, it seemed like a unique opportunity. As she began her research on the essay topic — Obama's impact on society — she was touched by what she learned.
"I love how she never saw anything as a task," Acuña-Taylor said. "She felt it was a duty for herself, her family and the nation."
Acuña-Taylor is among nine contest winners from the Fort Worth all-girls school who on Thursday will head to Winspear Opera House in Dallas for "A Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama."
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The Young Women Preparatory Network, an organization that promotes all-girls public schools, provided the nine tickets to the event, and YWLA decided an essay contest would be a good way to award them, YWLA Principal Tamara Albury said.
Students from an all-girls campus in El Paso will visit the YWLA campus and then accompany the Fort Worth students to the event.
"It's so exciting," Albury said, adding that one of Obama's quotes is featured on a wall at the school.
Amyia Green, 15, another sophomore at YWLA who will attend the event, said she was moved to enter the essay contest because the prize was "better than Christmas. It's like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one."
Green said she learned new things about Obama, including that she was the fourth first lady to earn a doctorate.
Another essay winner, Pareece Morehouse, 12, is a singer in a music video called "Little Girl Magic" that is about the challenges young women face in education and was produced by one of Pareece's former teachers, Thomas Mayfield.
Pareece said even though Obama is no longer first lady, "She still does things to inspire us."